September 1880, Lincoln County New Mexico:
I had left the bigger towns of the Northern territory and had made it to the deep crystalline white sands of the desert. I was heading to a place I knew I could ease up for a few days, take stock of the situation and decide what the plan was. I was in some trouble, but in had some worse scrapes before. Maybe it was time to head to new territory; I had friends to the west where the red desert lay, that would gladly welcome a gun for hire like me, to deal with their little legal problem.
I continued past the white desert into the foothills and into a canyon where the air came from the South and you could feel the humidity. As I reached the ridge I slowed my horse to a trot. It was the middle of the night and the occasional creek of my saddle and a horse shoe scraping on stone didn’t wake the homesteads I passed.
The moon greeted me from behind the clouds as I passed over the babbling creek and turned the bay up into the forest. I paused at the top of a ridge and sighed. This place had become home and I relished the peace that surrounded me now. The crusted old oak was still there and I had to smile as I dismounted then, letting my only trusted companion now graze and rest.
Taking my gloves off I felt the old wood against my fingers I kneeled down, feeling my way along the tree. There in between the exposed roots I began to dig. I would make quick work of it and get to what I was after.
Once it was done I took a long draw from my flask and leaned against the trunk of the old oak, looking at the moon and contemplating the long ride ahead.
April 1982, Lincoln County New Mexico
Anxious preteen stuck in the back of a family car as the parents decided which road would be the most exciting to get to our destination. I ignored them for the most part, concentrating on my music blaring into my ears from my walkman that held my sanity.
The dull lifeless desert I had started to loathe had given way to white sparkly sand. That’s when it began. I recognized this place, this white beauty under a deep blue sky. It felt as if I was in the Sierra’s again and all that I was, and all that I knew of me, was remembering something old in my memory again. The recollection came greeting me and the preteen wants and desires melted away.
As the car I was in drove through a canyon I knew more and more. Memory came flooding back, tree lines and rocks looked familiar and the creek we passed over made my heart race as I knew it was there before I even heard it. My parents were delighted I cared about the trip now as I started asking questions they could not answer, about where we were, and handed me the map.
I poured over it and saw a ridge that went up from where we were now. As the car stopped and my family got involved in looking at land to buy, I started to explore. The air seemed somehow more humid here and inviting. I worked my way up a hill and came to what looked like a deer trail. I could still hear my parents discussing things and so wasn’t that far from them.. so I kept going, working my senses and feeling things I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I was no longer Rose… I was someone who felt home here, who knew exactly where to go.
I topped a ridge and walked down a small rise and found an old oak tree. The thing had seen better days, but looked familiar. So familiar I closed my eyes to get my bearings as a sea of dizziness flooded my body. I leaned against the tree to get a grip and felt a charred line on the trunk, probably from a lightning strike. I slumped down and sat in the dirt and strange thoughts entered my mind that were not my own. Of gunfights, camaraderie, and whiskey? Strange as a pre-teen I had thought of such things except in the old westerns my Dad would watch sometimes. Then memories of the man shooting at me at the rocks in Sierras came to my mind. Was that not a dream, or was I just hallucinating now.
For some reason I knew I had to dig, and feeling between the roots of the old oak I did just that, digging until my fingers hit the softer, cold earth on my fingers. I was about to give up on this odd fruitless quest, when my hands felt something hard. Digging around it I was able to pull it loose. It was caked with dirt and hard to distinguish.
Deciding this odd adventure had to end I took this odd relic and worked my way back down the ridge. Dusting myself off so my family wouldn’t suspect I found a creek and washed my hands and then took out my clod of dirt discovery.. As I washed it off in the cold water.. to my amazement it was an old coin. I nearly dropped it in the creek from surprise but managed to keep a hold of it, my hands shaking, not from the snow melt water, but what lay in my hand. I now had proof, of … something; that maybe my strange dreams and illusions were not dreams at all.
(Written by S.M.Bungay, inspired by events and D.R.)
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